Mike Easton is mere days away from opening his pizza shop, and on this particular Tuesday morning, he and right-hand man Johannes Heitzeberg are debating the finer points of how customers might actually order their lunch.
It’s not a problem pizzerias usually contend with, but then Pizzeria Gabbiano isn’t dispensing pepperoni by the slice. Here it’s Rome’s pizza al taglio, literally “pizza by the cut.” Heitzeberg takes his post behind six carbon steel baking pans, each bearing a sheet of thick, chewy crust topped with whatever the season suggests. Today a sheet of tiny orange cherry tomatoes, garlic, and basil sits next to one layered with rosemary, thin discs of potato, and a light layer of béchamel.
The theoretical customers will approach and decide how big a slice he should cut for them. Will they communicate the actual length with their hands, like recounting the size of a fish they caught? Will Heitzeberg slowly draw his spatula along the pan and tell the diner to say when? Once this matter is settled, the pizza gets snipped with large scissors and weighed on a nearby scale. The diner pays by weight. In kilos, no less.
However it plays out, those customers won’t be theoretical next week. For a tiny joint that’s only open weekdays from 11 to 3, there’s been a lot of excitement building about this place. The buzz is rightful, since Easton’s both a talented chef and an unabashed geek when it comes to seasonality and Italianate carbs; his pasta restaurant, Il Corvo, is so beloved that the line often spills out the front door onto James Street. A similar turnout seems likely at his new space at 240 Second Ave S.
In addition to the regular kinks that accompany a restaurant opening, Easton, Heitzeberg, and crew will have to walk customers through this ordering process. But once they do, the reward is a custom-size square of pizza imbued with olive oil flavor, ample air bubbles, and the subtle tang of sourdough. One version (at least, and probably more) will always be vegetarian. Another will be basic cheese (often the housemade mozzarella). Pies might get topped with house-cured pancetta or capicola, says Hetizeberg, but “you’re not going to get a meat-lovers special here.”
As Easton puts it, “We make really good bread and put seasonal things on top of it.”
Keep an eye on Pizzeria Gabbiano’s Facebook page for the official opening summons. Easton's thinking Monday.